6 Ways to Quickly Cut Stress in Any Situation
Stress affects us all at times, and it doesn't have to be confined to just one place. In the UK, an estimated 828,000 workers were affected by work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2019/20, or 2,440 out of every 100,000. While work is a common source of stress, it's not the only one.
If something plays on your mind and you need to get back on track, then there are some quick, straightforward ways to refocus and avoid the feeling of things not going your way.
1. Walk It Off
Exercise is commonly cited as a great way to boost your mood. This is because the act of movement directly reduces stress while also promoting the release of endorphins, which are great to help you relax.
Fortunately, you don't have to run a marathon or play a full game of your sport of choice. Even a comfortable, ten-minute stroll can be enough to ensure that your mind calms down and stress dissipates virtually instantly.
If you're at work, then a walk from your desk to the kitchen and back can be enough. However, there are some additional ways to cut down on negative feelings with walking at the core. You can try to step outside rather than indoors intentionally. No matter the weather, you'll find yourself not only feeling better mentally but often with more energy than when you started.
If you have friends or colleagues close by, walking with them can yield even more significant benefits. Social interaction is an excellent stress-reliever in its own right, even if you don't directly address what's getting you down. Their act of merely being there makes you feel supported and resilient, ready to tackle the challenges the day throws in your direction.
2. Distract Yourself
If you're experiencing stress while doing something, try to switch your focus to something else. For example, if it's work-related and you're working on a spreadsheet, switch over to something simple but focused like a game. Card games, like Freecell Challenge, are ideal for this as they don't take long, but they take your mind off what's getting you down and can create a small adrenaline rush if and when you win.
3. Slow Down Your Breathing
For something that most people do without even thinking about it, controlling your breathing can significantly impact your mood. We've written before on using this control for everything from anger management to public speaking, and stress reduction works in a similar manner.
Actively reducing your breathing rate sends a deliberate message to your brain that it's time to calm down and relax. In return, your brain will inform the body of this new guidance. As a result, you'll directly tackle some of the physical symptoms of stress, including an increased heart rate and potentially high blood pressure.
4. Take a Few Moments to Meditate
Meditation is not yet quite as mainstream as it potentially could be, but it's one of the most tried and trusted methods of beating stress and anxiety among those that use it. The fact that the concept has been around for thousands of years and remains popular today is enough encouragement to accept that it works.
The best part in the context of quickly reducing stress is that it doesn't need to take long. While some people have set rituals for meditation and do so for hours on end, you don't need to do anything of the sort. Just a few minutes focusing on your breathing and deliberately clearing your mind of whatever worries you can be more than enough to get you back on track mentally.
Another excellent tip for meditation is to get away from the idea of needing to be in a calm, quiet place. It certainly helps to avoid any distractions as a beginner, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that you can meditate anytime and anywhere.
While doing so at home might be the most relaxing method, you can use it when specific situations make you stressed. This could be in the waiting room for a dentist's appointment, sat at your desk or using public transport. Most practitioners weave meditation into their routines whenever they have the opportunity, and if you suffer from stress regularly, it's worth learning to do the same.
5. Write Down What's Troubling You
The act of writing is surprisingly powerful. While some people consider it as being merely putting words on a page, much more goes into it. Even if you only write occasionally, you'll find that you often concentrate more on the task than you might think. Even the subtlest distraction is enough to make you stop, address what's going on around you and return to the job when it's quiet again.
This is also a great, individual way to make use of the old adage, 'a problem shared is a problem halved'. It's like having a discussion with yourself about what's on your mind, and once your stressful issues are down on the page, you can stop thinking about their stressful impact and start diverting your thoughts to solving them.
6. Tidy Up
Not everyone subscribes to the messy desk theory, whereby an untidy workspace indicates a cluttered, disorganised mind. However, as with writing, it's not all about the results. Instead, the act plays an integral part in stress reduction.
Taking time out to put things in their place or to ensure they're clean will free your mind up to wander in a different direction. Tidying is repetitive and monotonous, but not in a negative way. It doesn't require your full attention, but the act of doing something positive with an outcome you can appreciate will boost your mood.
There's an element of physical activity to tidying up, too, so you can enjoy some of the benefits outlined above of walking it off.
In the end, you get the same sense of satisfaction as completing a simple game, ensuring that you've ultimately completed a well-rounded task.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
Stress can quickly get in the way, even for the calmest, most laid-back people. Fortunately, it doesn't need to hang around for long – the most significant barrier to alleviating stress is not knowing what to do when it strikes. Fortunately, the tips outlined in this article are all great for getting you back on track, and you only need to spend a few minutes on any of them to begin to feel their effects.
About the Author
Amy Deacon is a business coach and speaker who creates solutions for businesses seeking to change attitudes and routines to boost productivity throughout the workplace.